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Lionel Jeffries
Born
Lionel Charles Jeffries

(1926-06-10)10 June 1926
Died19 February 2010(2010-02-19) (aged 83)
Poole, Dorset, England
EducationRoyal Academy of Dramatic Art
Occupations
  • Actor
  • director
  • screenwriter
Years active1950–2001
Spouse
Eileen Mary Walsh
(m. 1951)
Children3; including Ty Jeffries
RelativesAmy Mason (granddaughter)

Lionel Charles Jeffries (10 June 1926 – 19 February 2010) was an English actor, director, and screenwriter.[1][2][3][4][5] He appeared primarily in films and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his role in The Spy with a Cold Nose.[6]

Early life

Jeffries was born in Forest Hill, south London.[7] Both his parents were social workers with the Salvation Army.[8] As a boy, he attended the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wimborne Minster in Dorset.[8]

In 1945, he received a commission in the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry[8] and served in Burma at the Rangoon radio station during the Second World War,[9] being awarded the Burma Star. (He blamed the humidity there for his hair loss[9] at the age of 19.[8]) He also served as a captain in the Royal West African Frontier Force.[8]

Career

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He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.[9] He entered repertory at the David Garrick Theatre, Lichfield, Staffordshire for two years and appeared in early British television plays.[citation needed] Jeffries built a successful career in British films mainly in comic character roles and as he was prematurely bald he often played characters older than himself, such as the role of father to Caractacus Potts (played by Dick Van Dyke) in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), although Jeffries was actually six months younger than Van Dyke, who was born on 13 December 1925.

His acting career reached a peak in the 1960s with leading roles in other films like Two-Way Stretch (1960), The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960), Murder Ahoy! (opposite Margaret Rutherford), First Men in the Moon (1964) and Camelot (1967).[citation needed]

Jeffries turned to writing and directing children's films, including a well-regarded version of The Railway Children (1970) and The Amazing Mr. Blunden (1972). He was a member of the British Catholic Stage Guild.[3]

Jeffries had a negative attitude towards television and avoided the medium for many years.[4] He reluctantly appeared on television in an acting role in the 1980 London Weekend Television Dennis Potter drama Cream in My Coffee and realised that television production values were now little different from those in the film industry; as a result he developed a belated career in television.[citation needed] He appeared in an episode of the Thames Television/ITV comedy drama Minder in 1983 as Cecil Caine, an eccentric widower, and in an episode of Inspector Morse in 1990 (Central Television/Zenith/ITV).[citation needed]

He starred as Tom (Thomas Maddisson) in the Thames/ITV situation comedy Tom, Dick and Harriet with Ian Ogilvy and Brigit Forsyth.[citation needed] During location filming with Ogilvy for a 1983 episode, a stunt involving a car and a lake went very badly wrong, ending up with Jeffries only just managing to get out of the car's front window before the vehicle sank in 45 feet (14 m) of water.[citation needed]

Retirement and death

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Jeffries retired from acting in 2001 and his health declined in the following years.[citation needed] He died on 19 February 2010, at a nursing home in Poole, Dorset.[7] He had suffered from vascular dementia for the last twelve years of his life.[10] He was 83.[1]

He was married to Eileen Mary Walsh from 1951 until his death. They had a son and two daughters.[8] His son Ty Jeffries is a composer, lyricist and cabaret artist.[citation needed] Lionel Jeffries' granddaughter is the novelist and playwright Amy Mason.[citation needed]

His name is mentioned before the ending titles in the film The First Men in the Moon, released in 2010: "For Lionel Jeffries 1926–2010".[citation needed]

Filmography

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Year Title Director Writer
1970 The Railway Children Yes Yes
1972 The Amazing Mr. Blunden Yes Yes
1973 Baxter! Yes No
1977 Wombling Free Yes Yes
1978 The Water Babies Yes Additional
1979 Nelson's Touch (short) No Yes

Acting roles

References

  1. ^ a b "Actor and director Lionel Jeffries dies, aged 83". BBC News. 19 February 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2010.
  2. ^ Gray, Sadie (20 February 2010). "Actor-director Lionel Jeffries dies at 83". The Times. London. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2010.((cite news)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  3. ^ a b Barker, Dennis (20 February 2010). "Lionel Jeffries obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
  4. ^ a b Hayward, Anthony (20 February 2010). "Lionel Jeffries: Scene-stealing character actor who also directed 'The Railway Children'". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 14 June 2022. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
  5. ^ "Lionel Jeffries, British Character Actor, Dies at 83". The New York Times. 20 February 2010. Archived from the original on 12 October 2022. Retrieved 4 December 2022.
  6. ^ "Lionel Jeffries". BAFTA. Retrieved 26 April 2024.
  7. ^ a b "Jeffries, Lionel Charles (1926–2010)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/102888. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Lionel Jeffries – Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph. London. 19 February 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2010.
  9. ^ a b c "Actor and director Lionel Jeffries dies, aged 83". BBC News. 19 February 2010. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
  10. ^ Paton, Maureen (28 January 2012). "Dad was too much to compete with". The Guardian.